Your health should not have to wait in line to get checked up. How often do you find yourself going back and forth between your family physician, then to the laboratory for a blood test, and back to your doctor for another check up? Not to mention waiting in the dreary room even though you had your appointment booked days in advance. The amount of hours this process takes eventually leads people to postpone their health when in fact it should have been taken care of immediately.
Well, that is where the savior concept of blockchain comes in, and it’s crucial for everyone to understand what is up-and-coming. Before any discussion can be held on the application of blockchain, we must have a clear definition of what blockchain is and how this concept applies to your healthcare needs.
An Easy Understanding of Blockchain for Beginners
In the past several months, recent news articles have been hyping up the legitimacy of applying blockchain methods to other industries, and one of biggest areas is the Healthcare Information Technology (IT) sector. The blockchain is the new foundation of the Internet for over a decade. It derived from the idea of bitcoin, which is a digital currency method that has close to $112 billion in value in the United States. Now, the tech community has expanded the value of economic transactions that are made virtually. Basically, blockchain has become the foundation of the new type of Internet, and it’s a revolution for incorruption and systemic efficiency.
The blockchain is simply another type of cryptocurrency such as the bitcoin. It is like a public ledger system where individuals can record their transactions; in regards to healthcare, these transactions are datasets such as blood tests, surgeries, implants, insurance information, and more. Each transaction is a “block” (hence the title of blockchain) and the blocks are added to other existing blocks until it creates a “chain”. Once each block is verified and approved, it is added to the public log and remains permanent.
If you still don’t know how it works, that’s okay. You actually don’t need to know the specific technicalities of how it works to use it, just like the Internet.
“Basically, blockchain has become the foundation of the new type of Internet, and it’s a revolution for incorruption and systemic efficiency.”
Let’s put this concept from the perspective of a NBA basketball game. There are generally two teams, a scorekeeper, and a referee. All players must unanimously agree on the rules beforehand so that no one is cheating or making foul plays. Fans are watching the game and can help maintain the system to keep it in check.
Analogous to blockchain, each block is the score and all the fans and spectators help keep them in check of the rules. To reward those who help keep accurate scores, now fans can get rewarded for keeping the system updated and in check. Whoever is the first to correctly verify and approve the score (or “block”) will get rewarded for contributing to the public log system. Now, even though the fans are not the actual million dollar basketball players, they have the opportunity to gain benefits for their contribution to the overall score.
Same as the cryptocurrency, users who are not even involved in the transactions but also part of the blockchain node also keeps track of transactions as well and record their own blocks. The way logs across the system remain exact copies of each other as new blocks are updated and added is through solving a sort of computational math puzzle.
The Impact of Blockchain on Healthcare
The impact of blockchain could potentially have on the healthcare sector are numerous. It has a high potential to generate easier access and sharing of information for healthcare records. More time will be saved with the accessibility to track and ship for supply chains. Blockchains can also aid in the medical recording by providing an immutable medical record that cannot be changed, aiding in any legal cases in which an untampered medical record is needed. Patient records can be consolidated into a single record; lab results, treatments, disease registries, treatments, etc. can all be compounded together to give a holistic view of patient history so that providers can plan better strategies of healthcare. You will no longer find yourself wasting time back and forth between each lab and all your data will be in one safe place.
List of blockchain benefits:
- Patient data sharing issues can also be addressed across state borders, where regulations regarding patient privacy and consent vary from state to state.
- Permission checking will keep patient data secure while granting easy information access for other permitted parties to view. It can also assist in settling payments between insurance providers, hospitals, and patients.
- Patients can be also incentivized and rewarded from following a care plan, following appointments, and staying healthy through the blockchain system.
- Patients may also be rewarded for sharing their data with clinical trials and research.
The Reality of Blockchain
Blockchain definitely has its ups, but those come with its downsides. It is not designed for the use of analytics. Blockchains has issues with transactional performance; for example, bitcoin runs at around 7 transactions per second. To put in an easier context to understand, 7 transactions is almost nothing compared to something like VISA, where around 24,000 transactions are recorded per second! It has problems with large data storage over time and scalability issues. Because the logs have to be recorded, it can lead to large numbers of information that gets repossessed, leading to high inefficiency costs. Greater research is still ongoing to optimize data transfer within blockchain.
If the problems currently facing blockchain can be resolved, then we may be able to enjoy faster and more efficient healthcare in the future. There wouldn’t be a need to wait in line at the doctor’s office while the office workers call various providers and to see if you are qualified to receive care. Doctors would be able to streamline your personal healthcare plans by having access to your past healthcare plans and plan accordingly to how different methods have worked and what new steps could be taken. You can be more involved in your own health by having up-to-date biometrics data, monitoring your own progress, and keeping up a routine of visiting your healthcare provider on a regular basis.
A Look Into Health IT and Patient Safety
Over the last decade, health information technology (HIT) has had a significant influence on patient quality of care and safety. HIT is defined as “the application of information processing utilizing computer software and hardware that will process, store, and retrieve data for decision making” and knowledge sharing. The technology aims to reduce human errors, improve care coordination, and enhance clinical outcomes for patients. Here are some examples of existing technologies that have changed the healthcare landscape:
- Electronic Physician’s Orders: In this process, physicians utilize electronic or computer support to enter medication orders. More robust systems also allow physicians to order consultations, tests, and procedures. Electronic Physician’s Orders have been interlinked with the clinical support decision systems (CDS) to ensure the safety of clinical orders. This is done by preventing drug dosage and administration errors. A metanalysis suggests that this process been found to reduce medication errors and severe drug reactions effectively.
- Clinical Decision Support: This form of support is meant to relay patient-related information to the healthcare provider to optimize clinical decision making. The tools that assist in clinical decision making include notifications, clinical guidelines, patient clinical summaries, and other documentation. Research has concluded that compliance with on-screen physician reminders resulted in small improvements in process adherence, medication orders, and different clinical outcomes.
- Bar Code Medication Administration: Bar code technology is integrated with electronic medical records to ensure that patients receive the correct amount of medication. Advanced software has special medicine validation features that can provide alerts if there is look-alike medication. This technology has reduced medication administration errors by 50% to 80%.
While there is substantial evidence that health information technology plays a role in patient safety, it is essential to receive front-line and executive buy-in. Buy-in will allow the organization to be fully equipped to reap the benefits of the technology.
Top Yoga Apps of 2019
Many people practice yoga to merge the mind and the body and to seek out physical and mental health benefits. But did you know that there are apps available to facilitate your yoga sessions? Word of Health would like to recognize some of the top apps that will optimize your yoga experience.
Note: This is not a ranking article, and the descriptions for each app can be found on the applications store on your smartphone.
This highly-rated app offers around 500+ asanas, 200+ guided yoga classes for everyone from beginners to masters. Coaches also facilitate workshops that will tailor to your needs and will help you stay on top of your yoga routine. The app also offers a global community to share ideas and stay updated on the latest campaigns.
Keep Yoga helps connect the mind and the body by providing more than 400 asanas and 10 yoga session plans. Real person guidance will provide detailed descriptions and will give you a deeper understanding
With 450+ yoga poses in the app, Lotus Yoga tailors your yoga work out to your focus or level of experience. There are also 100+ of yoga and pilates classes in different categories to fit your desired needs. You also have the option of creating your own programs to track your progress.
Yoga Down Dog
Down Dog provides more than 30,000 configurations so that you are not repeating the same workout. The app also focuses on relieving back pain by stretching and strengthening certain areas of the back. To enhance the user experience, Yoga Down Dog offers dynamic changing music and a different set of voices for voice-guided instruction.
Yoga Studio: Mind & Body
This app presents 170+ ready-made yoga videos along with guided meditations. But what sets Yoga Studio apart from other apps is the option to customize or create your own HD video classes. Furthermore, the smart-link feature will help transition from one pose to the next. For reference, there is a yoga library with detailed information about each pose with corresponding images.
AR and VR Applications in Healthcare
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been growing to encompass a variety of different fields, from business and gaming to healthcare applications. Research into healthcare applications for AR and VR technologies have swelled up in the past decade with the advances in computing power. Currently, AR and VR healthcare applications have been focused on educating or simulating different treatments for surgeons and clinicians. There are three key healthcare delivery stages as defined by the world health organization: Primary care; Secondary care; Tertiary care interventions. According to a research study done in the UK analyzing all the ongoing research in AR and VR in healthcare application, there is a broad focus in hospital and clinical settings. Here is a list of interesting technologies in development or are currently rolled out in hospitals and clinics.
- There have been developments in dental care using a 3D iOS scanning system to create dental abutments and to potentially plan for surgical interventions.
- Simulated needle placements for training purposes, with haptic feedback systems to simulate real tissue.
- Simulations of surgery procedures for greater patient engagement with practitioners on the outcomes of surgeries.
- Aiding surgery with additional information about the patient anatomy by reconstructing patient anatomy using spatial information collected through using image-based tracking.
- Training nature of tools developed need full surgical theater settings and require a hospital setting for deployment.
- Simulations of health conditions are being developed so that interventions can be planned for a wide variety of scenarios.
- Human body measurements captured through computer-aided design (CAD) to process 3D measurements and display modeled body shapes.
- Handheld technology through a hand-held surface scanner can be used to present spatial information in a mobile format.
- There is a system being developed to measure the size of wounds using 3D sensing technology to improve the reliability and accuracy of surface measurements continuously.
- A hand-motion based VR game used as a therapy treatment to reduce hand muscle problems associated with keyboard overuse.
- AR and VR can be combined to add greater depth to technologies. Research for a system has been made to use AR to project a virtual brain onto the patient’s head. On the same system, VR will be used to allow the patient to have a hands-on experience with the projection to see the solutions implemented.
- The Xbox Kinect has been used for developing AR anatomy education.
- A wheelchair navigation system using smartphones to scan specific locations in order to assist the user in moving around their environment.
In short, AR is used to visual pre- or intraoperative images onto the patient’s anatomy to aid in decision making moving forward. VR has been used for educational purposes and interacting with anatomy. The future of healthcare will be greatly enhanced for patients and healthcare providers alike.
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